Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chemistry and Blood!

Please understand that I flunked high school chemistry.  Well, I would have flunked if not for it being an elective so I could drop the class with no fuss.  And I did drop Chemistry.  Because even with tutoring by a multitude of smart friends and working my butt off I had an F in the second week of the second six weeks. (That was a mouthful wasn't?)  Not a high, it might round up to a D with a miracle of a curve grade, but a kiss your freedom goodbye, you are grounded until death F.  Why does this matter?  Because now I like Chemistry.  Not the college level if you mix it wrong the science lab will burn kind, but the teaching kids about basic reactions type of Chemistry.  As an adult I now understand that everything in life involves Chemistry.  Cooking, laundry, cleaning are all a matter of Chemistry.  I point all this out to my children because I want them to be interested in the world around them and how it works.

Today as I drove to pick up Twin A and B from school the nurse called me.  Really?  Fifteen minutes until the end of the day and someone is in the nurse's office?  At least that is what I said on the inside as I answered the phone.  Twin B had  been in her office for over 20 minutes with a raging nose bleed.  The kind that takes forever to stop and grosses out all those witnessing the event.  You know, the kind that loves to mess up expensive school uniforms through no fault of the bleeding victim. Well by the time I got there he had stopped bleeding and all was well with the world.  Cool beans, no doctor visit and I get to chat with a friend. 

Once we were home I asked for the bloody clothes to be brought into the laundry room and then proceeded to show Twin Bloody a neat Chemistry moment.  Hydrogen Peroxide will attack the proteins in the blood and start working instantly on the stains.  Now to me that is cool.  The little bleeder took one look, gave me the stink eye and headed off to forage for a snack before tackling homework.  Kids.  They have no sense of wonder. 

I hope your week is full of awesome Chemistry and no blood.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Not One of Those Days

"One of those days."  We have all had them.  The car won't start, a child throws up on the way to school, the dog uses your new shoe as a chew toy.  It is easy to focus on the daily frustrations of life, the things that go wrong, the tragedies on the news, the ills of the world around us all.

 But there is more than pain and frustration in our lives and we need to actively seek the moments of peace and joy.  Sometimes we need to turn off the television and the breaking news of our computer and look for those examples of God in our ordinary moments.  The Bible is full of extraordinary miracles delivered with grand gestures.  The parting of the Red Sea, Manna from Heaven, the birth of Jesus and his resurrection.  One of my PRE students once said that God doesn't perform miracles like that anymore but I disagree.  Perhaps they are not as dramatic but I see little miracles all the time.

 I never planned on having children, did not like kids.  Now I have three and they have changed my life in ways I could have never imagined.  They make me laugh with their humor, they awe me with their growing knowledge about the world around them and they bless me with hugs and kindness when I am ill or sad.  For me this is a miracle.  That God would change my very nature is a miracle. 
My husband is from Honduras and I am from Louisiana by way of Germany and several North American states.  Yet we met in south Mississippi.  That is a miracle.  My eldest child has grown out of food allergies and Epilepsy.  Another miracle.  My twins were born five weeks early with dire warnings of death, mental retardation and long hospital stays as being very real outcomes.  They are healthy, bright boys who went home with me and needed no special care while in the hospital.  God's grace in action.

But sometimes we have to look at the more mundane aspects of our lives to see God's goodness or everyday miracles.  Hitting all the green lights on the way home, catching the scent of the first rose of the season, a great test grade in a challenging class or picking up the phone only to hear the voice of a friend you met over thirty years ago.  I believe these are all miracles, examples of the goodness of God who counts the very hairs on our head.  When we look for those in our daily lives we will see even more of them.  Ordinary miracles strengthen us, they nourish our souls and they give our life joy. 

I hope this week is spent seeing those ordinary miracles around you. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cooking through Cook's

I am  contemplating cooking my way through the” Cook’s Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking” book.  The primary issues are time and my innate inability to stick to a recipe unless it is baking and even then I fudge on spices.  If you have ever watched the Cook’s show you know they are a little snotty and do not approve of substitutions or deviations.  I understand their reasoning; they are trying to perfect each recipe.  I am not perfect.  My cooking is not perfect.  The only reason I am contemplating this is the desire to be a better cook.  After all, it is something I do every single day so I should be more knowledgeable than I currently am.   If do this I have to be honest and recognize my short comings, such as following verbatim the recipes.
 Case in point, tonight’s dinner of pot roast.  I will not print out their recipe due to copy write laws. (I like my house and don’t want to lose it anytime soon.)  I will tell you what I actually did when there are at least three changes in the recipe.  Cook’s does not like sirloin top steak.  It is tough and can be difficult to tenderize.  It can be used as a roast in a pinch though.  Of course my grocery store frequently puts it on sale, and with three growing boys, I love sales.  So tonight I had two slightly freezer burnt cuts of meat defrosted which totaled up at 2.32 lbs.  I decided to make (an approximation) of Classic Pot Roast.  Here is the recipe as I actually prepared the roast.

Two sirloin top steaks just over two lbs
Olive oil (to coat bottom of pan)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ red onion, chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp sugar
2 TBS Kitchen Bouquet
1 ½ c beef broth
1 cup water
7 small Yukon potatoes, chopped into ½ inch cubes
½ cup red wine 

This is not a walk- in-the house from work and get it on the table in 30 minutes meal.  Not even close.  Depending on the cut and size of your beef you need 3-4 hours cooking time, and that does not count prep.  Not time we have on most days but when you have it, this will produce rave reviews at your table.
I used my big Bertha Le Crueset Dutch oven for this meal so I could brown and cook everything in one pot.   Less cleanup time equals a happy me.  Lower your oven rack so the pot can sit in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  On the stovetop, heat your Dutch oven with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom over medium high heat.  Pat the beef with paper towels and salt and pepper to taste before browning the beef on all sides.  Remove beef and set aside.  Add onion, carrots and celery, sautéing until just starting to brown or onion turns translucent.  Add minced garlic and sugar, sauté for about a minute.  The sugar is supposed to prevent the garlic from becoming bitter.  I have never tried that before but the meal was not bitter in anyway.  Add the beef broth and Kitchen Bouquet at this time, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  My mother introduced me to Kitchen Bouquet a few years ago and it adds a little extra to the flavor of beef.  Put beef back into the pot and add enough water to come up half way up the meat, for my dish that was about 1 cup of water. 
The next step was something I had never done before.  Cover the top of the pot with foil and then put the lid on tightly.  This ensures a complete seal creating steam in the pot to produce a tender roast at low temperatures.  Place in oven.  No, you can’t just walk away from this meal.  Now every 30 minutes you need to remove the pot from the oven and turn the meat over then reapply the foil and lid.  You are looking for the beef to become fork tender.  At two hours my sirloin was easily pierced by a fork so I took the pot out to add the cubed potatoes.  They are chopped fairly small, a trick I picked up from a delicious meal at a local restaurant a few years ago.  I flipped the beef one last time and put it in the oven for one more hour.  Are you done yet?  Of course not!   (Did I mention this is time consuming?)
Remove the pot from  the oven and transfer back to the stovetop.  Take the beef out and let it rest on the cutting board, be sure you have a way to trap the juices so they can go back in the pot.  While the beef rests bring the broth and potatoes up to a low boil.  Keep the mixture cooking for 6-8 minutes.  The purpose of this is to reduce the sauce thereby intensifying the flavor of the sauce.  Then add the red wine and cook down for about five more minutes.  Slice the beef across the grain which should be very easy to do at this point.  Place in a serving dish and then pour the potatoes and sauce over the roast.  Serve with a good bread to mop all those juices on the plate and a salad so you feel healthier.  I also made a side of mushrooms.  Yes it would have been much easier to just throw them in with everything else but somehow I gave birth to mushroom haters.  Bless their hearts!  So I make them on the side and then everyone can add (or not) as desired.  Here is that recipe.

One small package of baby portabellas de-stemmed and sliced. 
2 TBS reduced sodium soy sauce
2 TBS Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place butter in a small skillet and melt over medium heat until butter begins to brown.  Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add sauces and cook for 3-5 minutes more.   Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.  I can eat these all by themselves.  They would be great over a grilled steak or a baked potato.  

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Now to peruse my cookbook for the next experiment.  Only 399 more recipes to go!